By Natali Rahimzadeh
Imagination, empathy, and creativity are core values of a humanities education, John
Majewski, Dean of the Humanities and Fine Arts, told a UC Santa Barbara graduate workshop
this week. Majewsky opened the event Humanities as a Vocation: Career Paths Beyond the
Blackboard, hosted by the Walter H. Capps Center for the Study of Ethics, Religion and Public
Students heard from social entrepreneur Jessica Jackley, author Reza Aslan, and producer Tim Kring about finding a career that “fits your passions,” as Jackley put it. A leader in international microlending, she said the humanities gave her the perspective that allowed her to navigate the world of non-profit global entrepreneurism. Jackley, who founded the non-profit microlending firm Kiva, had studied philosophy, poetry and political science.
“Philosophy taught me to ask the right questions. Poetry taught me to slow down and look closer. And political science made me look at who makes the rules,” she said.
Jackley stressed that “starting with empathy and listening to others until it hurts” is
essential not only to discovering who we are, but also to knowing how to combine our passions
with our skills to reach fulfillment.
Reza Aslan, author of God: A Human History and Tim Kring, producer of the TV series
Heroes, then took the stage.
Aslan, who also teaches creative writing and has worked for CNN, said it had always
been his plan to be a public face for religious scholarship, but that he has confronted “non stop” criticisms from colleagues and professors along the way. After the premiere of his CNN documentary series Believer, Aslan found that “not taking a traditionally academic” approach led some to dismiss him as not a “real scholar.” But he believes that creative writing skills and a foundation in humanities education has allowed him to explore big ideas from multiple angles.
Aslan and Kring, both UCSB alumni, touched on how religious studies inspired their work. Kring said interconnectivity and “connecting people to one another” was the main purpose and theme of his hit television series Heroes. He described how social media provided newfound audience involvement in the writing and production process. Kring discovered an amazing new “feedback loop” where he was telling stories to an audience and hearing stories back.
As the event wrapped up, Aslan and Kring had the chance to speak to several graduate
Natali Rahimzadeh is a UCSB Senior majoring in Communication, with a minor in Professional Writing.